Categories
Featured Success

This Is Success: The Mississippi Delta Chinese

There are many great lessons to be learned here. But, first and foremost, this is a shining story of what success actually looks like . . .

 

They have an annual changing of the flags ceremony . . . between State and Ole Miss. Read more about it HERE.

Categories
Blog Change Featured Success

Why A Dream Is Better Than A Resolution

I Resolve

Saturday I posted my New Year’s resolution. Here it is:

I will measure my year by how much
joy I can bring into the world rather
than by how much I can get out of it.

I’m not big on resolutions.

They tend to be lists of things to do, or things to do better than I did before or things to stop doing. This makes them baseline negative. They are easy to make and easy to break. But breaking them comes with a price. It feels like failure. It brings disappointment and makes me believe I’m stuck.

Change

What I really want to do is change, to improve myself and my situation. That’s the point.

But it’s more urgent than that. I NEED to change my situation. It’s been a challenging year. You know what that is code for.

I’d share the details. I don’t mind but it would include details from other people’s lives that could use some privacy. You don’t need details. Insert your own from a tough year . . . Yep, that will do.

Anyway, change is not an option or a good idea or a pleasant goal. This year, change is essential and I’m deadly serious about it.

Joy

So, why the cute clouds-and-bluebirds resolution? If I’m that serious, why not a gritty, hard-core, blood and guts, smash-mouth type of resolve?

Because joy is what I need. And joy is what the world needs more of.

Joy will give me more determination, more energy to spread, more clarity to fight the good fight. Joy will keep me relaxed and healthier. It will lower my blood pressure and take the steam out of my stress.

But I SHOULD Be Angry!

There are riots in the street, terrorists bombing marathons, planes going missing, all of which make me angry. I could be the Incredible Hulk and respond with anger but then I would only be increasing the problem.

All the Hulk leaves behind is the debris of destruction in the name of justice. But the Hulk doesn’t bring justice. Puny Hulk. Justice is much more complicated than destruction.

Destructive Change

The philosophy that destruction is necessary for change is wrong. Destruction kills everything without regard. There is a lot of good to be kept. There is precious potential that should be protected.

We need a better type of change. Something more powerful and focused, a laser scalpel instead of a bomb. We need healing change, a bandage not a bullet.

A Dream

The greatest change agent the world has ever known is a dream. It is magnetic and positive. It pulls people to it like a sunrise after a storm. It is rich and sumptuous in detail. It is grand and inspiring in scope.

Here’s how it works.

As a teenager I went on a camping trip with my cousins by motorcycle. Everything was fine until we went off-road. When I hit the winding trail through the woods my inexperience reared its head.

Magnetic Trees

The trees seemed to magnetically pull me closer. The very trees I wanted to avoid seemed to jump into the path ahead and try to take me out. I ground to a stop inches away more than once. I was holding people up. It was dangerous, and worse for a teenager, embarrassing.

Then my cousin revealed the secret. You automatically go where you look. He told me to look at the trail, not the trees. Focusing on the danger kept pulling me off course. It was hard to do with limbs reaching out and grabbing for me but I finally managed it.

Look Where You Want To Go

That’s the reason for my resolution. It’s easy in the virtual world to focus on the problems. Fear sells newspapers and websites. The more disturbing and salacious the headline the more hits the article gets.

Greed makes us harbingers. In the competition of ideas the bad ones seem to win and it’s easy to let the reward of easy attention lead us to controversy and fear. But that results in focusing on the problems.

We Need To See Hope

Without joy, hope and positive truth, things begin to seem beyond our control. We feel helpless simply by our choices. We have learned helplessness where there is help.

Things are not beyond our control. We control where we focus. We control the dream.

If I dream of bringing joy then I have to focus on it. I have to have it to give it. Joy doesn’t come from taking. That’s merely fleeting, selfish happiness, a vapor compared to true joy.

I Dream Of Joy

So choose your dreams well and do not let them out of your sight. Let them fill your view and you will automatically head for them.

My wish for you is to have great visions of positive things. Then none of us will have as much to worry about.

This year resolve dreams.

 

*Photo Credit: dileepeduri via Compfight cc

Categories
Adventure Blog Connections Dogs Featured Humor Perspective Recovery Success

The Magic In Between

Land of a Thousand Distractions

There are great moments in life, moments they say define you, the celebratory highs of accomplishment, the heroic lows of courageous struggle. But this month I have a little different take on what defines our lives.

I say a person is defined by what they do in between such dramatic and emotional moments. When no one is watching. When the stakes are not high. When one day falls quietly into place behind the last.

These are the times that try men’s souls.

The problem is that it’s easy to see the glory in riding off to rescue the damsel in distress or wresting a continent from the hands of a genocidal tyrant. But it’s hard to see the glory in watching John Wayne shampooing carpets when the puppy threw up because she ate a sock.

No one says Winston Churchill’s finest hour was spent at Home Depot searching for a solution to his dog’s sudden urge to tunnel under fences like Steve McQueen.

Did Hemingway have to kneel by his bedside to blog “For Whom The Bell Tolls” because his chocolate Lab thinks she’s still a puppy yet takes up her master’s entire side of the bed?

Did Lincoln have a granddaughter with eyes so big and blue that they seem to hold the sky within? I think not. Otherwise his mind would have turned to mush like mine and the Gettysburg Address would have sounded like:

Four score and
Das’ my sweet sugar wuggar.
Does her wub her
Granddaddy waddy?

Look! Squirrel!

Somewhere along the way toward changing the world I have become ensnared. Pinned to the beach like Gulliver. Immobilized by ten thousand soft threads of distraction.

All of them seem to be necessary. But definitely not heroic.

I cannot, for the life of me, picture Indiana Jones on his day off waiting heroically in line at Comcast, bullwhip furled, fedora in hand, soundtrack on pause.

Dah, dah dah daaaah! Dah, dah da . . . “Please Take A Number And Wait For The Next Available Associate.”

What is an associate anyway?

Some things shouldn’t be seen.

Imagine Lucy Liu at the DMV. Or Johnny Depp at Wal-Mart picking up word search books for his mother. I can’t. Don’t want to.

These are scenes that should be edited out. Or not filmed at all. And yet, my life seems to be made up entirely of scraps from the cutting room floor.

Outtakes. An adventure-free zone. The stuff in between the good stuff.

If that’s all there were to it then life would be pointless. Tedium. But then . . .

Glimpses Of Glory

Sometimes, out of the corner of my eye, like a flicker in a passing mirror, I catch a fleeting glimpse of life as it could be. Or could I be seeing life as it really is?

Could it be that what I do is more significant that it appears? Is it possible?

It always catches me by surprise. Something tickling at the back of my brain makes me look up. An instinct. A hair-raising hint.

Suddenly my eyes are assaulted with a sky-filling blaze of color, a sunset so magnificent that it stops me in my tracks.

Thundering Hooves

Or I’m driving to work with plans filling my head to the brim when a sideways glance captures a field of endless green.

There a herd of horses gallop wildly over rolling hills, manes flying, tails swishing, all for the sheer joy of the wind on their faces.

The grace. The colors. The excitement! And then they are gone leaving me and the morning traffic behind.

Were it not for these moments reminding me of the beauty of life, it would be easy to overlook.

The Moments You Fight For

During Suzie’s year and a half of fighting for life I can remember very clearly a few surprising moments that carried me through. They were not at all what I expected.

Once I was standing beside Suzie drying dishes while the kids watched TV in the next room. The afternoon sun was slanting gold through the back yard. We weren’t talking about anything but I found myself filled with an unexplainable joy.

So much so that I had to question where it came from. I had never felt joy washing dishes before. Never imagined it. It was just something that had to be doe before I got on with the good stuff.

It dawned on me that this calm and tedious moment was such a contrast from the constant shocks we’d endured. It was the very thing we were hoping to get back – a moment of peace and quiet. Something not terrifying.

Something Normal

While chasing bad guys, having hair-raising adventures and being the hero is exciting, the entire point is to get things back to normal.

We do not fight wars for the fun of it. We do not set fires for the rush of dragging children from the flames. We do not rob stage coaches for the camaraderie of riding in a good posse.

What we really want is the crisis to be over so we can get back to our lives. To do exciting things like, well, wash dishes and clean up puppy barf.

The Good Life

So, when I understand my life correctly, the good parts are not dodging bullets, saving continents, preventing nuclear holocausts or surviving tsunamis.

Instead, the good life is the part after the novel is finished, after the movie credits roll, after the treaty is signed, after the horses are back in the barn, after the pistols are cleaned, after the family is reunited, after the fire is out, after the town is rebuilt.

The good life begins after the crisis ends.

And while it may seem boring by comparison, the good life is also cleaning carpets, washing dishes and feeding the dogs. It is the freedom to have your life back, to have time to write a world-changing novel, or hold a grandbaby, or share a meal.

The good life is not being the hero, as much as we love them. It’s being there for the people you love. It’s working to pay the bills. It’s sitting in traffic. Or being an associate. Or maybe even taking out the garbage.

Oh no! I forgot to take out the garbage! I can hear the truck in the distance. Can I beat it? Will trash win or will our hero save the day? Refuse or rescue? Be the man or get canned?

Stay tuned next week. Gotta go.

Now, where’s that bull whip?

Dah, dah dah daaaaaaaaah. Dah, dah daaaaah!

Categories
Adventure Blog Change Dreams Featured Spiritual Success

The 2014 Plan

Things are going to be different this year . . . I wish I knew how.

Oh, I know my plans. I see my dreams. I have a vision. But we all know how much control I have over the world.

You too? I suspected as much.

What I Didn’t See Coming

There are dozens of year’s end articles about pop culture publicity events: who did, said, wrote, acted, danced or exposed what. I had no idea they were about to happen and it wouldn’t have mattered if I did.

Closer to reality, there were a lot of personal events last year that I didn’t anticipate either. I didn’t plan on moving back to middle Tennessee. I missed seeing the three hospital visits my family had. The job I now have wasn’t even available then. I had no idea what house I’d call home. The list goes on.

I’m sure you had a few surprises last year. The point is, we can’t see what’s coming and I, for one, am glad. I would have focused on every bad moment. I would have worried myself loony. I almost did without the pressures of foresight. Worry is easy. It’s also useless.

Good Surprises Happened

I would never have noticed that a lot of great surprises happened. I met people I didn’t know. One of my daughters is about to have a baby. The other just got engaged. I was clueless and I’m pretty sure they had no idea either.

I wasn’t on my schedule. It didn’t appear on my list of goals. No grand strategy or self-help book is responsible. They are simply blessings of God.

Thank goodness he didn’t consult me.

 

Photo Credit: Patty Maher via Compfight cc

Categories
Adventure Blog Dogs Encouragement Featured Never Give Up Pets Success

Knowing My Limitations In 2014

Nessie’s Limitations

It’s hard to know your limitations. Nessie is a good example. She is a chocolate Lab mix. We’re still debating about the mix part. Some days I think it’s German Pointer. Today I’m convinced it’s antelope.

It was a beautiful day and, at one year old, she needed to burn off some steam. She has plenty of steam. She ran circles around me, racing and leaping, smelling and chasing for around three miles before she slowed. Just in case you were wondering, I did not go that far.

For every step I took she bounded ten. She slowed to plough into a bracing stream and later a soggy bog. She frantically pursued, but did not catch, a black cat, a random assortment of birds and a large, unperturbed bull.

Reaching Her Limit

Nessie finally slowed to a steady lope and then sat down – done, over, exhausted. Or so I thought. In reality she was just waiting for me and scanning for her next target.

After a solid four count, she was off. Her exhaustion was only a fantasy on my part.

Puppies Know No Limitations

Puppies will use their last reserve. You have to watch out for them because they won’t stop until they reach it. I once ended up carrying her for miles down a mountain trail because she hit her limit unexpectedly.

But that was months ago. Her one-year-old limits haven’t been challenged by me any time recently. Now it’s awe-inspiring to watch her run. Speed with abandon. People comment on it.

Limitations Move

A dear friend of the family rescues dogs when he’s not treating cancer. He has a theory:

“People say Labs need to exercise a certain amount every day to stay calm.
I say you’re only training them for longer distances.”

The reason puppies hit their limit is because they don’t know where it is. It keeps expanding. Yesterday’s limit is today’s warmup.

A long-term, determined commitment leads far beyond one day’s limitations. The only way to find out where the wall stands today is to reach it.

False Limitations

Far too often we don’t even come close to reaching our limits. We stop before we even break a sweat and settle for last year’s limitations without thinking.

Or maybe someone else sets your limits for you, flagging you down, warning you to be cautious, threatened by the ease of your progress.

That’s not the way we do things around here. It’s never been done before. Better stop before you get hurt.

Good Enough

We stop without ever catching a glimpse of our potential, content that we’ve done more than expected, feeling like we’ve earned a break.

I do not know which is worse – letting someone else decide our potential or stopping before we can discover it for ourselves. Either way we are left with the distant hollow echo of what we might have been.

Fear Of Failure

From hard experience we know that failure hurts. It’s embarrassing. It’s hard to bounce back. We pay a personal price. But we learn from it.

The silent price of staying firmly in our comfort zone is permanent ignorance of what heights we can achieve. In the long run, this is far more corrosive to the soul.

It would be better to fear stopping one step away from success, giving up too soon, being less than we were made to be.

Knowing My Limitations

So, for 2014, I have determined my goals. I do not have a resolution but instead I determine to be resolute.

I will push until I find out where my limits are and then push to expand them, to grow bigger than my training has allowed before.

Like Nessie, I will daily test my limits to see where they are now.

Because the only way you can truly know your limits is to reach them.

Nessie’s Nose

As I hit save on this post, Nessie’s cold nose hit my elbow. Tail wagging. Eyes glowing. Ready for more.

2014, here we go . . .

 

Photo Credit: Charlie enjoying Scappoose Creek by R0Ng via Compfight cc

Categories
Adventure Blog Brain Fun Change Courage Featured Recovery Success

The Mysterious Case Of The Thanksgiving Brain

Thanksgiving always raises the hair on the back of my neck.

Not because I will have to deal with family or a belt that’s too tight or the horrors of Black Friday – a man’s worst nightmare – but because Thanksgiving opened the darkest, most terrifying chapter of my life.

Now, it invariably takes me back to the last few moments of calm that I would feel for years. There was only a hint of what was to come, the briefest icy prick walking down my spine. I was clueless of impending doom, safe in the certainty that I was appropriately grateful for my life.

Hmm . . . uh, Thanksgiving?

So, what does my family’s harrowing trip through multiple cancers have to do with Thanksgiving? It has to do with how our brains work. It has to do with the reason for the original Thanksgiving.

My wife’s brain tumor, her loss of the ability to communicate beyond monosyllables and her recovery initiated my unwanted education into how brains work. Slowly this turned to a lifelong fascination.

I learned that our brain is always overloaded with too much input: the feel of our toes in our shoes, the hum of the air conditioner, the terrain beneath our feet. Our brains are constantly looking to sort out essential information from a constant stream of irrelevant data.

Floor, floor, floor . . .

If something doesn’t move or change or threaten our lives, if a thing stays put and leaves us alone, then the brain makes a note and moves on to more important things.

This saves us from constantly having to waste brainpower to recall things like the floor. It’s just there. Floor, floor, floor. We don’t have to constantly remember it. Floor, floor floor. That would be a waste of time. Floor, floor, floor.

Our brain looks for dangerous things that threaten to end us – tiger, lion, mother-in-law – or annoying things to avoid – traffic, taxes, Lady Gaga – or essential things we need to survive – food, shelter, the NFL.

The Efficient, Ungrateful Brain

This means a normal, healthy brain ignores the good things we have. The things we possess are cataloged and tucked away, our freed-up brain now ready for further action.

That’s why when you finally get that precious thing you always wanted, suddenly it doesn’t seem so shiny and bright anymore.

Our brains don’t mean to be ungrateful. They’re just trying to keep us alive and moving forward. Which is good, right?

Enter The Thanksgiving Brain

But there are times when we are suddenly, powerfully aware of the blessings we have, like when someone gets cancer, or a near-hit accident, or a child is born.

Or say when you’ve just crossed a vast ocean in a leaky wooden boat only to nearly starve while losing many of your best friends like the Pilgrims did.

Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘Til . . .

This is why we don’t miss some things until we don’t have them. We recently moved and had to, like the Pilgrims, survive some harrowing times – without a washer and dryer and breakfast without the toaster, which remained stubbornly hidden in a mountain of boxes.

I knew I would miss the mountains, the river, the deep-cut, boulder strewn canyons when we moved. But I had no idea that we would miss our veterinarian so much. It seems that Riverview Animal Hospital in Chattanooga is very nearly the perfect vet and all others we’ve found are sadly lacking by comparison.

(No advertising dollars involved)

We’re Alive!

That’s why the Pilgrims had their epiphany. They understood how close they had come to not surviving. They saw clearly how much of life they had taken for granted.

They had all taken daring risks for their beliefs. They had all been courageous. Some had not made it.

It just seemed downright hard-hearted to enjoy a beautiful life without remembering those that helped them get there, without remembering that they were living the answer to their prayers.

They needed some time to give respectful acknowledgement of their blessings and publicly remember those that had not been as fortunate.

We’ve GOT To Remember This!

They thought of Thanksgiving. And it was a great idea! It spread throughout the colonies to become embedded as a national holiday.

They didn’t think of college bowl games but I’m sure they would have approved.

As we all participate in this celebration of the blessings we have,
as we rest our restless, efficient brains and consider what we’ve accomplished,
as we eat too much and watch parades,
as we bow our heads and thank God for the very air we breathe,
may we also thank the Pilgrims,
promise we will stretch this moment,
and keep our Thanksgiving Brains for the entire year.

Photo Credit: kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop) via Compfight cc

Categories
Adventure Blog Change Connections Encouragement Featured Success

The Mountains Will Be There . . .

What I Had For Breakfast

I try hard not to talk here about what I had for breakfast. It would be easy to make this all about me and drown you in the mundane issues of my life.

On the other hand, if I never told you anything personal I would only be a disembodied voice wafting around the internet. It’s hard to connect with that. So, in that spirit . . .

Moving

We are leaving the mountains.

*Sigh*

The original plan was to come to the mountains, work via the internet, live simply, blog and write a book. Our youngest son was firmly in college and we were approaching empty-nester-hood so we had the freedom for the first time in a long time.

I wrote my first draft, threw it out, then wrote my second and threw it out. I wrote the outline for my third attempt and this one stuck. I’d written a third of the draft and was as happy as a writer can probably be with his own work.

While it wasn’t perfect, the plan was working, with a few bumps.

Plans Change

Then we got the call that my Mom was in the hospital. Long story short, she moved in with us and I became her care giver. Before I knew it two years had zipped by.

With resources running low I knew it was time to change plans when . . .

Family

My daughter called to let us know she was having a baby. As time went by, things were looking very good for mommy and baby. The two hours to Nashville began to seem very far away. Hmm . . .

Work

Then a friend emailed a job posting that was too good to pass up, a steady gig with time left over to write. More on this later.

I made the call and a week later I was in Nashville for a trial run. Two weeks later I was back again. You see where this is going.

Change Everything

For the past month I’ve been commuting two hours each way and making arrangements. I wake up each morning and wonder why I’m doing this but at the bottom of my first cup of coffee I always find the reason.

Morning brain hates change but coffee brain says ain’t no thang. Coffee brain talks that way. By cup number two at the Starbucks in Manchester, coffee brain thinks he’s Superman.

When I think of having to pick up every thing we own twice, I need coffee brain.

Act, Don’t Think

So this week it’s time to make things happen. The decisions are made. Re-thinking them is only backing up. There’s nothing slower than doubt.

Faith, however, moves mountains. I’m pretty sure it works on sofas, too. It also saves me from morning brain.

When I get tired and overwhelmed I just remember the decision process. We prayed. We talked to friends. We ran the numbers and possible scenarios. We felt peace about it.

Everything will Be Alright

You can’t know the future or plan for every contingency. Plans only last until they hit reality anyway. Whether plans bend or break is beyond our control. But they’re only plans. We can always make new ones.

In the end there are two things I’m sure of:

  1. The worst thing I can do with my life is nothing.
  2. God has it under control.

Whether success or failure, joy or pain, now or later, faith tells me it’ll be okay in the end.

And the mountains will always be there.

So, we’re off . . .

 

Categories
Adventure Blog Courage Encouragement Endurance Featured Never Give Up Success

The Secret Life of (plan) B’s

My Plan A’s are awesome. They’re amazing. Awe-inspiring, even. This is because they only exist safely inside my head.

My Plan B’s are messy, uncertain, stutter-stepping. They are awesome-less. I’m frustrated with my Plan B’s and look down on them simply because they are not my glittering, glamorous Plan A’s.

Get Real

Plan B’s are Plan A’s with one added bonus – reality.

My Plan B’s have to account for other people’s ideas, money, time, energy and the fact that I’m often not Plan A material. You know the right stuff? Well, most days I’m the other stuff.

I wake up with the urge to pull the covers back over my head and get a few more of those glorious morning snoozes. I know what’s out there waiting. It’s more reality.

Reality Is Not Bad

Truth is, reality is where life happens. Imagination doesn’t count. Dreams inspire us and guide us but they don’t go on your resume.

My idea for a best-seller doesn’t matter until it hits the cold water of reality at the deep end of the pool. I must dive in, go under and come up sputtering, wipe the chlorine from my red eyes and write the thing.

Inventions that never leave the cozy inside of my brain mean no more than the thing I wish I had said or the book I never read.

Reality Has Goose Bumps

I must write the book or build the business or do the exercise or say the thing. I must sweat the sweat, invest the time and lift the load or it doesn’t happen.

I will have sore muscles. My back will ache. I must pick up garbage, pay bills and go to the grocery store for the things I forgot. I must walk in the rain or drive behind mist-blasting trucks.

Reality gets wet and bedraggled. Like puppies or toddlers, it’s messy and will not be denied.

The Secret of Plan B’s

But here is the secret no one wants you to know. All of the successful Plan A people around you living their Plan A lives, driving Plan A cars to their Plan A destinations, they are all liars.

It wasn’t Plan A. Plan A existed only as an ephemeral dream, perfect, untouched, until it hit the rock crusher of reality. Then it changed. It morphed. It ducked and parried. It bled and healed.

In short, everything you see is Plan B.

The Two Things

So, don’t wait for perfection. It will never come. Instead, remember these two things:

  1. An imperfect plan, forcefully executed, beats a perfect plan every time.
  2. There is no perfect plan.

 

 

Photo Credit: enki22 via Compfight cc

Categories
Blog Change Courage Dreams Featured Success

Dream Big vs Dream Small

Dream Big

Big dreams are the obvious, common, go-to recommendation. There are several reasons.

A dream must be big enough to inspire you. It must be big enough to attract you and make you want to try.

Big dreams are easy to get excited about. Big dream speeches draw crowds and YouTube views. We all know big dreams that have come true. We know that, together, groups have started small and changed the world.

From Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech to Kennedy’s moon speech to Churchill’s finest hour speech, big ideas have brought people together and to their feet throughout history.

The Hidden Flaw

Here’s the problem – big dreams have a built in excuse. The dream is so huge that no one, including yourself, can really believe it. And no one will blame you if it doesn’t work out. It was just too big, you see.

You can always tell yourself that you were just ahead of your time.

But that kind of thinking short circuits the power of a dream. If you don’t think it’s really possible then it’s just a fairy tale, a nice story for children, a fantasy, as life-changing as Comic-Con.

There are ways around this problem but first, let’s consider the flip side . . .

Dream Small

It’s easy to believe small dreams can be reached. They don’t take as much effort, don’t require crowds or national movements. They’re cheaper.

Sure, they’re a little less exciting but you might be able to get them done in a weekend, or a week, or a month. Of course, you won’t go down in history . . .

Or Will You?

Rosa Parks didn’t set out to change the world. She just got fed up with the injustice of it all and ran across a really horrible bus driver. Maybe she was tired. Maybe she didn’t have time for lunch and her blood sugar was low. Maybe someone else had pushed her to the limit before she stepped on that bus.

But whatever the series of events, that day was different. She decided that here, now, in this moment, no matter the cost, she wasn’t moving.

Rosa Parks did not dream of a nation where one day people would, “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” She had a smaller dream. She dreamed of sitting down on a bus and not having to move until she got home.

So, on that day, she made her stand. And she got arrested. But she survived.

From all experience, that should have been the end of it. She wasn’t the first to refuse to give up her bus seat and be arrested. And yet . . .

Small Dreams Grow

The funny thing about small dreams is that they grow. I certainly didn’t dream of a thirty year career in the music business when I first picked up a guitar. I dreamed of learning a G chord. And then an A chord.

Neither did Rosa Parks dream of being the spark that started a movement that changed the world. The Wright brothers didn’t dream of flying when they learned to ride a bicycle. John F. Kennedy didn’t dream of sending a man to the moon when he joined the Navy.

Dream Bigger

So how do you get from a dream that’s simply too big to a big dream you can believe in? Dream the biggest dream you can believe is possible. Then make it happen.

After that it will be too small a dream and you’ll have to dream bigger. By then you’ll be a bigger person and be able to handle it. Or maybe someone else will be bigger than you.

Dreams Begat Dreams

Rosa Parks believed at the time that, even if nothing else came of it, it was still worth it to refuse to give up her Montgomery, Alabama bus seat because of the color of her skin. She would keep a little of her dignity. She would stand against injustice. She–would–do–SOMETHING!

Maybe she would fail. No, probably she would fail. But she did it anyway, in the hopes that someday someone wouldn’t fail.

It would be a story for her children. It would be a legacy of courage. It would be her testimony before God. Here, on this day, she made her stand by sitting. It was just the right thing to do.

Dreams That Work

But on that day, something was different. Rosa Parks was more than she seemed. She was such a good woman, so hard working, so giving, that she was known across the community. People loved her.

“Rosa Parks was one of those rare people of whom everyone agreed that she gave more than she got.” ~ Pulitzer Prize–winning historian, Taylor Branch

“She was the secretary of the local NAACP chapter, attended the Methodist church, and helped oversee a youth organization at the Lutheran church near her home. She spent some weekends volunteering at a shelter, others with a botanical club, and on Wednesday nights often joined a group of women who knit blankets for a local hospital. She volunteered dressmaking services to poor families and provided last-minute gown alterations for wealthy white debutantes. She was so deeply enmeshed in the community, in fact, that her husband complained that she ate more often at potlucks than at home.”
~  Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

The Right Dreamer

Not only was it the right dream but Rosa Parks was the right dreamer. It was outrageous that someone as good-hearted as Rosa was arrested. It was obvious.

People who would not stand up for themselves would stand up for her. And so, that small dream, by that small person, in that troubled time time, became the dream of others.

Dream Anyway

You can’t know that your dream will change the world. But you can be sure that your dreams will change you.

Changing the world isn’t really the point of dreams anyway. Some dreams are small and personal-sized just for you. They are compass headings to your potential. They are markers along the path. Guideposts.

Dreams matter in your life. And you matter in our lives. So make them good dreams. And be the best dreamer you can be.

Because once you’ve found a dream that catches in the sails of your imagination, once you hear the creak of the ropes and feel the deck surge beneath your feet, once that smile creeps into the corner of your mouth and you turn your face to the wind, nothing will ever be quite the same.

Photo Credits:
Rosa Park’s Bus, National Trust For Historic Preservation
Sailing St. Patrick – Jason Pratt via Compfight cc

Categories
Adventure Blog Courage Encouragement Endurance Featured Never Give Up Prayer Spiritual Success

How To Build An Encouraging Parent

I had an amazing revelation at 4:30 AM this morning. I have no idea what woke me up. Maybe Nessie, my chocolate Lab puppy, was chasing birds in her dreams again. But while I was trying to go back to sleep I had a ground-shaking thought . . .

I think I finally understand my parents!

I grew up with extraordinarily encouraging parents. I had no idea. They were just the parents to me. I thought all parents were alike. I loved them but I didn’t really know them.

Over the years I listened to the stories they told of hardships. When the family got together my aunts and uncles told tales on my parents that I’d never heard. They laughed a lot. By the time I was half grown I thought the Great Depression and World War II were great adventures. Like pirate stories. Like children’s books, cartoons and movies. Like jokes.

When I hit junior high – now called middle school because we don’t want to damage their precious little psyches with the scarring term junior – I began to learn the truth, kind of. War was hell. The Depression was hell. My definition of hell fell well short of reality but I was learning.

It was college before I ran into my first truly evil parent, the kind that steals the college money you’d worked odd jobs for years to save, leaving you penniless and forced to drop out. Then I learned of worse parents.

By the time I had three kids I knew the full weight of responsibility. When my wife, Suzie, got multiple cancers I learned what my parents were truly made of. They were unfailingly there for us, sacrificing time and money, even praying for God to take them instead of Suzie – their daughter-in-law.

Then my father died of cancer after a long fight and I learned what it was like to live without his constant encouragement. Then Mom had her own health problems and came to live with us. I had to become the encourager and felt inadequate to the task compared to my parents unfailing support.

But it took until this morning at 4:30 AM for it to all come together. A lifetime of knowing my parents and being encouraged by them, a lifetime of stories, a lifetime of growing up suddenly made sense and I knew.

All of those stories came together. They were stories of facing starvation, war, poverty, ridicule, attempted kidnapping, theft, murder, natural disasters, disease and death. They had made them sound entertaining, funny even, but they weren’t.

Without the jokes, the family support and the perspective of survival, they could have added up to a horrible life. The difference was how they responded to the tragedy, the faith that held them together, the love that gave them courage, the certain knowledge that they were in it together.

They became good at encouragement, no make that great, because they had to be. Their situation constantly forced them to find courage, to create it from nothing. They practiced it. They refined it. They depended upon it.

Love gave them courage. Faith that God loved them and would be with them gave them strength. Tragedy tempered them like steel. Hardship hardened their spines. Survival gave them confidence that they, with God’s help and each other’s love, could survive nearly anything.

That’s a far cry from contrived self-esteem.

In college I once hinted with a smile that Dad had encouraged me so much because parents have to lie and tell their kids they can do anything. He was offended.

Anger flashed in his eyes. “I did not!” he said and he seemed to grow before my eyes to the size he was when I was a child. Or maybe I shrank. “I told you the truth because I saw your abilities.” Then he went on to list them. It was obviously not something he had to think about.

He knew more about me than I did. He knew in advance what I could face, how much trouble I could handle, how much courage I could find. He knew because he’d been through worse than I’ve ever had to face. He knew because of a lifetime of survival in hard times. He knew the power of faith. He knew the strength of family.

He knew.

And now, as of 4:30 AM this morning, so do I.

 

 Photo Credit: gregor_y via Compfight cc